learning apps, virtual tutor

Five of the best: learning apps

The countless educational apps on the market today create new, portable platforms for on-the-go learning anywhere and at your own pace. They expand usefully on classroom teaching, and, at their best, combine education with a sense of fun, complementing (though not replacing) lessons, books and interaction with others.

Apps can help with subjects ranging from Maths to French to History as well as assist with submitting assignments, taking notes or giving presentations, while enhancing presentational skills and improving knowledge of graphical data.

However, trying to identify the best ones can sometimes feel like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack. The App Store alone has some 200,000 educational apps for downloading, all different and all aimed at varied tastes, ages and learning styles. No doubt, the hours spent looking through countless unrated apps trying to choose one could be put to better use actually studying!

Here, we suggest five of the best (as recommended by the Guardian, Telegraph, Independent, BBCActive and the Times Higher Education Supplement).


This helps with class notes, studying and group assignments. It allows you to organise work in a range of formats, from sketches to text, images, video, audio and PDFs. The app’s camera can scan, digitise and organise documents, notes and drawings. Away from the classroom, you can create checklists and notebooks.

Available on iOS and Android devices, with both free and subscription options.

Endless Wordplay

This is the latest in a series of apps aimed at boosting spelling, counting and numeracy skills. Endless Wordplay has rhyming word puzzles and humorous animated sequences. It’s structured in ‘lessons’, with some free and others bought in virtual packs, and is available on iOS and Android.


Available on Android, iPhone and iPad devices, with 15 million users worldwide, this is billed as the world’s biggest crowdsourced study library, containing more than 400 million flashcards, notes and study guides from students. (You can also create and share your own.) It allows you to make and share materials, search for recommended study content, track progress, set reminders and devise custom quizzes.

Merck PSE HD

This free interactive Chemistry app is for all stages to A-level and beyond. It’s essentially the periodic table in a digital, at-a-glance format, offering details of all the elements, including a complete history and information about who discovered each one, alongside infographics. It also has features such as a tool for calculating compounds’ molar masses, and reviewers have praised its presentation and developers’ responsiveness to feedback. Available at the App Store for iOS devices.


These are apps for learners of French, Spanish, German, Italian and Portuguese. They’re for mastering vocabulary and phrases rather than grammar, and aimed mainly at those who are just starting to learn a language.

MindSnacks develops key reading, writing, listening and conversational skills through nine games, complete with graphics. Work to finish various quests, improve your score, or enhance visual recall and spelling skills – there are plenty of goals to work towards. Available for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, with a free basic package.

Of course, there are many other good learning apps out there – and no app can do all the work for you. At the end of the day (or first thing in the morning if that’s when you focus best!), you will still need to get your head down and revise, revise, and then revise some more.

However, sometimes it’s good to put down the textbooks and the reams of typed notes and test your knowledge in a different way. That’s when you may find that the judicious use of learning tools such as the ones mentioned above provides a welcome change and gives your studying the kind of boost that can make all the difference.

If you have a favourite study app, we’d love to hear about it!

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